Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eye of the Beholder

At the Enquirer's Politics Extra blog, Jessica Brown quotes Butler County Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer as saying that "other than [the difficulty with visits from family members], I think they [inmates] were happier to spent [sic] time here."

At least with respect to pre-trial detainees, that wasn't what I was hearing from my clients. They felt that they were being treated as "second-class" inmates up in ButCo. Here in HamCo, there are some programs that even pretrial detainees can make use of to try to improve their post-incarceration lives. Those weren't available to them in ButCo, presumably because ButCo's sheriff wasn't interested in doing anything with them other than collecting the rent HamCo was paying him. And ButCo seemed to pay absolutely no attention to some pretty standard rules regarding which inmates should (or should not) be housed together.

And Dwyer downplays the importance of visits to inmates. Let's face it: most people that are locked up (at least prior to trial) are poor (otherwise they'd "make bond" and be out on the street). I've represented clients stuck in jail on as little as $1,000 bond. If they're poor, their families likely are, too. And that means that getting to Hamilton (the city) can be extremely difficult. For an inmate waiting for the resolution of a case that could lock him away for many years, contact with family is often one of the few stabilizing things in his life.

HamCo's decision to house pretrial detainees in ButCo also created another problem that's not much talked about: attorney visits. The HamCo Public Defender set up a video conference system so that attorneys (even those of us in private practice representing clients on appointment) could talk to clients from the Defender's office via video feed. But it's impossible to pass documents to a client that way, and sometimes, there's no substitute for a face-to-face meeting.

Finally, I've never seen any figures on the cost of transporting inmates back and forth to ButCo. We routinely see the per-bed cost paid to ButCo itself, but every time a ButCo-housed inmate was transported to HamCo for a court date, there was some, additional cost (both in deputy-hours and gas money).

While I understood the need to find another space to house inmate, I, for one, am not sorry that the ButCo contract has ended.

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